- 13 Jan 20
The ballroom in the Grand Social is one of the best intimate venues in Dublin. On Saturday night, The Mary Stokes Band cooked up a blues storm there, winning hearts and minds in the process...
The Ballroom in The Grand Social felt cosy and calm, as we waited for The Mary Stokes Band to hit the stage. Members of the audience socialised, drinking pints or glasses of wine, chatting and laughing and getting into the spirit of a Saturday evening in Dublin.
The band’s entrance marked a shift in energy. The first note – played by Brian Palm on harmonica – stole everyone’s attention. The band set the rhythm and the crowd piled in, swaying to the music. The temperature was rising!
A recent arrival from New York, I hadn’t heard Mary before. It emerged quickly that she has enough passion and energy to fill the room on her own. She sang with so much soul and passion that her body couldn't stay still: every beat was matched with movement or a snap.
The band were in fine form too. Brian Palm on harmonica, and newly-recruited guitarist Sarah Michelle, made their instruments sing as they duelled with Stokes and with one another for the spotlight. The performance also paid tribute to some of the greats of the blues genre. A cover of ‘Moonshine’ by Memphis Minnie felt like a perfect mix of modern blues and early 1900s inspiration.
Stokes talked about meeting Julia Baird, John Lennon’s sister at a Guinness Jazz Festival gig in Cork: Julia invited Mary and her band to play at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, well-known as the place The Beatles started out on their journey into the history books. Mary had added a few Beatles’ songs to the band's set for that gig. These included ‘Dear Prudence', which – at The Grand Social – Mary proceeded to transform into a potent blues number, almost unrecognisable as a Beatles song. It was a real standout moment.
There were times when the performance as a whole felt like a powerhouse jam session: both the band and the audience were having a blast. There was a more straightforward version of the George Harrison song ’Taxman’, from The Beatles’ Revolver album, before the band got the voodoo magic working on ‘Wish You Would’. This, they stretched into an event in itself, by segueing into a blistering version of the Bob Dylan classic ‘Maggie's Farm’, before returning to the main groove.
Finishing with 'The Blues Ain’t Nothin’’, The Mary Stokes Band rocked out in splendid style, transporting the Grand Social Club back in time, evoking such a strong portrayal of American blues that it no longer felt like we were in Dublin.
A great night.
Check out the full photo gallery here.